Alimony: How is it calculated?

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Alimony: How is it calculated?

In Iowa, there are standard guidelines to calculate child support. However there are no such guidelines to calculate alimony. Attorneys have no accurate way to predict the amount of alimony a spouse may pay or receive, or the duration of the alimony. When a party requests alimony, the Court evaluates the circumstances of the case and many other factors required by the law to determine whether alimony will be awarded and if so, the amount and duration.

Iowa Code § 598.21A provides the Court with the following specific factors to consider in awarding alimony:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
  • The distribution of property.
  • The education level of each party at the time of the marriage and at the time the action is commenced.
  • The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance (support), including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, responsibilities for children under either an award of custody or physical care, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment.
  • The feasibility of the party seeking maintenance becoming self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and the length of time necessary to achieve this goal.
  • The tax consequences to each party.
  • Any mutual agreement made by the parties concerning financial or service contributions by one party with the expectation of future reciprocation or compensation by the other party.
  • The provisions of an antenuptial agreement.
  • Other factors the court may determine to be relevant in an individual case.

It is important to note the judge has discretion in determining how much weight to apply to the individual factors. The judge also has the discretion to determine how long one spouse must pay alimony to the other. In Iowa, there are three “types” of alimony:

  1. Traditional alimony is payable to a dependent spouse who may be incapable of self-support. The amount and duration of alimony will differ depending on the purpose it is designated to serve. For example, traditional alimony may be awarded in a matter where the parties were married for 30 years, one spouse is a doctor, and the other spouse stayed home during the marriage and is now less employable due to a lack of previous experience.
  1. Rehabilitative alimony serves to support an economically dependent spouse through a period of education and retraining. The objective of rehabilitative alimony is self-sufficiency. For example, rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to a spouse for a period of three years while he or she gains education or training.
  1. Reimbursement alimony may be awarded to a spouse who made economic sacrifices during the marriage which directly enhanced the future earning capacity of the other spouse. For example, a spouse who financially supported the other spouse while he or she obtained a doctorate degree may be awarded reimbursement alimony.

The spouse receiving alimony must declare the support as income for tax purposes. The spouse paying alimony may declare it as a deduction on his or her federal income tax returns.

It is important to note that if alimony is not awarded at the time of divorce, it is waived. A party cannot ask for the divorce decree to be modified and request alimony. This blog post is only intended to be informative and is not a substitute for comprehensive legal advice. For legal advice pertaining to alimony or your specific case, please call my office at (319) 260-2096 or email me at joslyn@sailerlaw.com.

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